In this fast-track world of social communities and online conversations, your organization’s brand -  more than ever - needs to build and continually reinforce its emotional connection with your customers. And what’s an even more important turn of events is that your customer community has an increasing amount of power to reinforce (and, in some unfortunate cases, reframe) your brand promise. My name is Kara Ellefson and I’m responsible for Integrated Marketing for Microsoft Dynamics, including brand management. I appreciate this opportunity to connect with this vibrant community to get your thoughts on this topic and the critical role branding plays in driving a Dynamic Business

To frame our conversation, please indulge me as I share a story about my 18-year-old nephew, Tim*. A number of genetic birth defects have left this endearing 18-year old with multiple developmental and learning disabilities including the inability to speak. However, what Tim lacks in words, he more than makes up for in a physical expression that delights those who know him. One particular obsession that solicits a passionate outburst from Tim are logos – UPS®, Schwan’s® and FedEx®- to name a few. He can spot their icons from a distance on their delivery trucks, in TV commercials, web sites and, in the case of Big Brown™, on David Ragan’s NASCAR Racing Crew. At the mention of any of these brands, his face lights up and he enthusiastically laughs and claps, eagerly pointing to the logo wear he often sports. As a brand manager, I thought perhaps I had uncovered a hidden talent in my nephew. Was it possible that this unique individual had the ability to identify a mark that was strong, recognizable and capable of generating a strong personal bond? Could he serve as a brand consultant, selecting the most powerful visual representation for a product from a sea of possible designs? I eventually came to terms with the fact that while my nephew might not be a brand “whiz kid,” one thing was obvious – his brand affinity was a case study for the power of consistency in brand identity and experience. These powerful brands all have one thing in common from an experience standpoint: drivers arrive in trucks and bring good things to his house, and this process is repeated on a daily basis in his neighborhood. So for Tim, each experience he witnesses consistently delivers on his interpretation of their promise. A recognizable mark, coupled with a consistent experience equals a "thumbs up" in my nephew’s world.

Of course, this is a simple story and building a brand entails much more than the creation of a cool logo and tagline, but in all seriousness, a product’s trademarked logo and name are among a company’s most valuable assets, and should be highly valued and monitored.

Microsoft Dynamics community members – user group members in particular – ask for ways in which they can leverage the Microsoft Dynamics identity to visually represent their group’s alignment with the brand. We see this community as a valuable extension of our Microsoft Dynamics family and we don’t want anyone to learn the hard way that using the Microsoft Dynamics brand incorrectly, however well-intentioned, can bring the unwanted attention of the legal department. Because of this, I wanted to share with you the ways in which the brand components can and should be used within your user communities and discussions. Our requests are pretty basic:

• When referring to Microsoft Dynamics always include Microsoft in the name. Microsoft itself is a powerful brand and the association of Dynamics with Microsoft helps customers identify the solution as part of the Microsoft portfolio and ultimately helps build brand association for Microsoft Dynamics. Additionally, many do not have the context for what Dynamics is and Dynamics itself does not carry trademark protection. In fact, there are other companies that use the term ‘Dynamics’ as part of their brand or company name.

• We realize that many of you are long-time customers who may still think of your product by its former name, such as “Great Plains” or “Navision,” and you might even have a stronger attachment to those legacy names. But for newer customers in the community, references to previous names or abbreviated references to “GP” or “AX” can be confusing. Always use the full, current product name in your conversations:

o Microsoft Dynamics NAV
o Microsoft Dynamics GP
o Microsoft Dynamics AX
o Microsoft Dynamics SL
o Microsoft Dynamics CRM

• We are reasonable too, and recognize that in the “Twittersphere” there are often character limitations, so shortening the name on second reference (Dynamics NAV, for example), while not preferred, is understandable.

• The Microsoft Dynamics logo is a registered trademark and may not be used by other companies with the exception of press agencies and journalists.  Therefore, creating user group logos or marks that include or closely resemble the Microsoft Dynamics logo is a “no-no” (i.e. in violation of the trademark). For more information, visit the Trademark Guidelines for Publishers site.

Thank you for your help in reinforcing the Microsoft Dynamics brand in your social communications with each other by following these simple guidelines. If you have additional questions, about reinforcing the guidelines for the Microsoft Dynamics brand, please feel free to post your comments and questions.

* Name changed to protect his identity.